Hand Washing Essay

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Identify one area of nursing/midwifery practice (hand washing) and demonstrate an understanding of its importance in patient/client care. In 2007 it was reported by the National Audit Office Report (2009) that approximately 9000 people were recorded as having died with a healthcare associated infection (HAI) in hospitals. Examples of a HAI include bloodstream infections, surgical site, urinary tract and chest infections. Many of these infections are preventable by carrying out adequate hand washing. This essay will discuss the importance of hand washing and the significance of how something so fundamental as basic hand hygiene can, if not adhered to, can result in a HAI or nosocomial infection. Boyce and Pittet (2002) defined hand hygiene as “a general term that applies to either hand washing, antiseptic hand wash, antiseptic hand rub, or surgical hand antisepsis” and hand washing as “washing hands with plain (i.e. non-antimicrobial) soap and water.” For the purpose of this essay, hand hygiene refers to hand washing whether through the use of soap, or antiseptic hand wash or hand rub. The importance of hand washing can be traced back to the mid-1800s when Ignaz P.Semmelweiss demonstrated that hand washing decreased the potential for cross-infection and thus preventing the cross-transmission of microorganisms (Semmelweiss, 1861). These microorganisms can be separated into either a resident bacteria (not easily removed by hand washing) or transient bacteria (not part of the normal flora and represent recent contamination). (Price, 1938). Transient bacteria is usually picked up from other patients and through touch is transferred to objects or other people. (Roper, Logan and Tierney, 1996). Harmful microorganisms are described as pathogens. As well as other patients, healthcare workers and visitors should also be included as a source of spreading this

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